Sophia Spach: Photog, student, gospel singer, world traveler
A mile-wide smile spreads across her face as soon as she’s asked about her study abroad. It’s something Sophia Spach, class of 2011, knows a bit about. Her sophomore year took her on a whirlwind back-to-back, semester-to-semester adventure, circling the globe from India to Costa Rica in the span of nine months. As she talks at 90 miles per hour about exciting cultural differences, the ancient sights she visited, and the exotic food she sampled, one recurring theme keeps coming up: People! It’s clear Sophia enjoys the people most of all. Her enthusiastic voice and smiling face seem like the perfect combination while she describes, as she says, “living and learning in communities of people so different from me.”
Traveling to India and Costa Rica not only confirmed her love for people, but it also gave her deep perspective on her own life in the United States. “I traveled to India during winter term with the intention of studying Religion Caste and Gender in Contemporary South India,” says Sophia. “I loved everything about it! The people, the colors, the spices, the food! And it was really interesting to see the levels of wealth—basically rich people and extreme poverty surrounding those upper classes.”
At Elon University, Sophia is a Human Service Studies major. If that’s not enough of a mouthful, she’s quick to point out she’s also dual minoring in Art and Religious Studies. But when she describes her major and her passions, there’s no doubt she’s totally in her wheelhouse. “I love people,” she says as she justifies her field of study. “Learning how to interact with all sorts of different people is something I am really interested in. I’ve also always been interested in Religion and Art.” She uncharacteristically mumbles about a particular Art History class and quickly admits, “it was really much harder than I thought it would be! Lesson: don’t ever underestimate Art History!”
As her junior year closes, she’s back on Elon’s campus full time and has no shortage of things to do. Working as a Resident Assistant for the international house she currently lives in, she also has a small photography business on the side and sings for Elon’s Gospel Choir. She spent her spring break traveling up and down the east coast performing and doing service work for the Ronald McDonald House. “I love the community aspect of this group and the friendships I have formed,” says Sophia. “It’s one of my favorite ways to spend my spare time.”
Recently Sophia’s photography was featured in Elon’s “The Edge” magazine (published twice a semester). “The Edge wasn’t really high on my radar when I was approached to write an article,” admits Sophia. “I said, ‘Sure!’ not really thinking that I’d ever see the article actually published, and then it was!” Her article contains tips on photography as well as details about her experience abroad in Costa Rica along with two of her pictures. As a result, her name and reputation in the photography business is growing. “I became really interested in photography way back when I took Ms. Royce’s photography elective (at Woodlawn),” says Sophia. “It became a passion of mine. I have a hard time remembering things and photography helps me remember and appreciate that moment. It also helps me take a moment to pick up on the little details of life that most people miss out on.” Sophia and her friend, Richard, have teamed together and started their own photography business (R&S Photography, which you can check out on facebook, instagram and flickr). “We were recently asked to do a wedding,” says Sophia. “I’m pretty nervous about that, but excited too!”
With one year left of college, Sophia is contemplating grad school or possibly a gap year. “Eventually I see myself living in England working with people that have disabilities. That’s something I would really enjoy doing.”
Any alumni wisdom for our high school students? “Enjoy the time you have,” says Sophia. “High school at Woodlawn prepared me so well for college. In so many of my classes, even up to this year, I have been able to relate things I've learned back to high school. I find myself saying, ‘Whoa! I learned that at Woodlawn!’ Take it all in, guys!”
Looking to book Sophia for your own photo event? That might be pretty tough to do. She’s on the move again (insert soundtrack: “I’m like a bird, I wanna fly away!”) right after spring semester ends. This summer we’ll be moving her alumni pin to New Mexico. “I’ll be working at a ranch as a youth programmer.”
Where in the World is TPW?
Tucked away in Central Europe, eating a spicy beef stew you’ll find Woodlawn’s own Terin Patel-Wilson ’11, now a junior at Yale University, doing a study abroad program in Budapest, Hungary. “We eat a lot of meat and potatoes,” laughs Terin. “I like meat, so it sort of works out for me!”
It’s a seemingly obscure place to land for study abroad but as Terin explains, “Budapest is sort of the hub for science and math. They have this theory that if you can do well in math and science, you will do well in life. And so they’ve put a major focus on that in Eastern Europe.”
A computer science major at Yale, Terin says he first developed his love of math/science at Woodlawn. “A lot of kids hate math in high school,” says Terin. “But some of my fondest memories involve the crazy projects we did in math.” Like the MacGyver movie, no doubt, which still makes a regular showing in Dr. Stutzman’s classes today. “Yeah, that isn’t going to be shown here is it?” laughs Terin. “I don't want people basing their entire opinion of me on that one movie.”
Terin made the transition from math to computer science early while at Yale - his first comp sci course sealed the deal. “I was always interested in computers,” says Terin. “It’s funny because while we didn’t actually have a formal computer science class at Woodlawn, nearly everything we did had some technology piece tied to it. We became very tech savvy at a very early age and it has always piqued my interest. I mean, if you look at just my graduating class, there are three of us (out of 13) majoring in computer science: Darius, Sawyer, and myself. That’s pretty impressive.”
Zack Scott '13 Conquers Houston Marathon
Anyone who's spent time on Woodlawn's campus in the past couple years probably remembers Zack Scott '13, running (and sometimes hobbling) around our trail system. A member of our own cross country team since his 5th grade year, he even has a trail named in his honor. He's run everything from the quarter mile to the 2 mile in track (and often times he doubled or tripled in those events) and of course he's run plenty of 5k's (3.1 miles) in his cross country high school career. And so it might not surprise you to learn that Zack recently completed his first marathon, The Chevron Houston Marathon. "It was the spur of the moment decision, really," admits Zack. "I decided to register for the race in the summer and I sort of just got committed to it." But 26 miles is a lot farther than three! "Yeah, about that," he laughs, "the furthest I've run is a 10k (6.2 miles). I did not fully comprehend quite how long it'd be."
Still, Zack stuck to his training program reaching his max long run of 20 miles. "It was a new level of sore I experienced," he remembers. Following a program he found on the internet, he started training in mid-July. "I liked this program," he says. "It justified the run lengths and talked a lot about the effects of marathon training like cell death, and how the immune system becomes compromised." Despite intense summer and fall heat (he trained in Houston), he says it was relatively easy to stay on track. "I had a lot of support from my friends at Rice. Once you tell people you are doing it, you can't easily back out of it," he laughs.